Philadelphia Union played to a 1-1 draw Saturday, coming back to tie the game on a ridiculously beautiful goal from Sebastien Le Toux.
Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton gave up a goal in the 12th minute on a weak punch clearance that Andrew Hainault pounded back at him into the back of the net.
Le Toux equalized in the 40th minute after Roger Torres fought through a Brad Davis’s tackle to the right side and, from about 30 yards out, lofted a perfect pass to Le Toux, who controlled it on a run at the penalty spot with his left foot, flipped to his right foot, and slotted it home past Pat Onstad. It was an audacious pass by Torres that few players would even think to make, let alone try.
The Union gave some regular starters a rest Saturday, with captain and starting center back Danny Califf getting his first game off all season, save for one he missed due to a red card suspension. Juan Diego Gonzalez replaced him to pair with Michael Orozco Fiscal at center back. Likewise, Torres, Kyle Nakazawa and Nick Zimmerman also got starts, along with Andrew Jacobson in midfield, perhaps the youngest midfield grouping starting all year for the team.
The Union were on their heels much of the time and ended up fortunate to walk out with a draw. Houston outshot Philadelphia 16-7 and won 13 corner kicks, many of them on forced clearances headed out of bounds by Gonzalez, who was under constant pressure on the left side much of the second half. Only five of those shots were on target though. Orozco Fiscal played a terrific defensive game, making some spectacular plays to shut down Dominic Oduro and the Dynamo.
Here’s what stood out in the game. (Disclaimer: I missed some of the first half, so some of these observations may seem incomplete, and my player ratings may be a bit off—or, if you think I’m clueless to begin with, a bit more off than usual.)
- Orozco Fiscal was probably the most exciting center back I’ve seen in a while yesterday.
If not for the Torres-Le Toux connection, Orozco’s slide tackle to stop Dominic Oduro’s breakaway in the 64th minute would have been the play of the day. (See the video highlights above at the 3:14 mark.) Oduro went flying down the right flank with the ball, leaving Jordan Harvey in his dust and heading in for a one-on-one with Knighton. Orozco took a perfect angle, and when Oduro pushed the ball out ahead past the 18, Orozco gambled and made a perfect slide tackle, hitting ball first and then Oduro. Knighton picked up the then-harmless loose ball. Had Orozco mistimed it, it was a penalty. But he didn’t. He was perfect.
Another play Saturday epitomized his style of play, both good and bad. He gambled on a slide out near the 18 and missed. Houston turned it into a shot on goal moments later, but Orozco recovered and came flying back for a brilliant sliding block. No one play showed this guy’s strengths and weaknesses better. He’s so aggressive that he thinks he can make any play, and he’s so talented that sometimes he can. It means he misses big at times but also makes spectacular plays.
- Welcome out of the doghouse, Roger Torres.
No, we didn’t know why he was in there either. But that pass was ridiculous, wasn’t it? He’s the most creative player on the team, perhaps along with Jack McInerney. It would figure that they’re two of the youngest. Nobody on the Union dares make that pass to Le Toux, but nobody has told Torres that he can’t.
- Andrew Jacobson is the most underrated player on the Union.
He probably doesn’t yet see the game like Stefani Miglioranzi, due to having less experience. Migs does more with less talent because the game moves slower for him, much like they say for NFL quarterbacks. Things slow down in your mind. You see things before they happen. It’s experience and smarts. Jacobson’s on his way there, but talent-wise, he has so much more. Watch him effortlessly dance through defenders in a way that often only Latin players do in this country. He plays hard, with a lot of intensity, and he’s a definite keeper. Sir Alex Ferguson knew what he was talking about.
- The Union’s left side looked like sieve on defense in the second half. Why?
I’m not sure where the breakdowns were, to be honest. If you can pinpoint them, weigh in via comments below. It wasn’t just Jordan Harvey at left back, though he was likely part of it. Maybe to a degree it was Gonzalez, who seemed slowed down after he cracked heads with Brian Ching and just kept heading balls out of bounds because he couldn’t get in position to do much else. And Oduro has that great speed out there on the right side. So was it the midfield? Was it the insertion of Jack McInerney and Danny Mwanga for midfielders, putting four forwards on the field at once? Did guys just get tired? I’m curious as to opinions.
GK Brad Knighton: 5
Knighton played an ordinary game. The goal falls on him due to his weak punch out on a shot from Brad Davis that he easily could have caught. Later, he made a good diving stop on a Corey Ashe shot, seemingly learning the lesson that he better catch the damn thing.
LB Jordan Harvey: 5
Houston’s attack really hit from his side late in the game. Was it all on Harvey? Maybe not, but he surely played his part.
CB Juan Diego Gonzalez: 5
Gonzalez looked overmatched all second half. I think he may have been knocked a bit senseless from his head-to-head collision with Ching. Everything was slow. He made all the safe moves, some of them too safe, like repeatedly heading balls out past the end line. Probably should have been substituted.
CB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 8
See above. Yeah, I love watching this guy play, I admit. Rave forthcoming.
RB Sheanon Williams: 5
Was better defensively than against Colorado, though he still got a beat a few times. Still a threat on the attack. Again, an experiment worth continuing.
RM Sebastien Le Toux: 8
That goal was just beautiful. When you pull off a play like that, you don’t have to do much else.
CM Andrew Jacobson: 6
Solid game for Jacobson. Good in possession, made some nice moves to thread through the Dynamo, aggressive on defense.
CM Kyle Nakazawa: 5
Not a bad game, but not great. Pretty ordinary. Like most of his games. He’s good enough to keep up with everyone but not yet good enough to stand out. Did a nice job taking corner kicks.
LM Roger Torres: 7
The pass of the day. Torres changes the game with his presence.
ST Alejandro Moreno: 5
Another workmanlike performance, and another game with not much to show for it. One play really stood out. He took the ball down the right sideline and had Le Toux open across the field on a run. Moreno never looked up. Rather, he felt behind him for the coming contact from Brad Davis, slowed down, got hit, drew the foul and a yellow card. Davis was smiling after the play. He should have been. Moreno went looking for a foul instead of a goal. That’s his major flaw.
ST Nick Zimmerman: 5
Was Zimmerman playing more midfield or forward? He was listed at forward. Like Nakazawa, he’s good enough to keep up with the game but not to impose his presence upon it. A beautiful interplay among the midfielders put the ball at Zimmerman’s feet for a spin toward goal. Had he scored, it would have been a ridiculously memorable sequence. Instead, he lost the ball out of bounds. You can’t blame a guy for not being brilliant, but … it is what it is.
Danny Mwanga: 4
Came in for Zimmerman in the 59th minute and didn’t really impact the game.
Shea Salinas: 5
Salinas didn’t do much either once he got on, but it was nice to see him on the field again. Showed bursts, but a four-forward lineup is a strange thing to fit into.
Jack McInerney: n/a
(Photo: Paul Rudderow)